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False equality and Bothsidesism refer to the misleading notion of treating two opposing viewpoints as equally valid or equally deserving of attention, despite substantial differences in credibility, evidence, or factual accuracy. It creates a perception of balance or fairness by presenting both sides as equally valid, even when one side may be based on falsehoods or lack substantial evidence.

Journalistic integrity requires careful discernment and a commitment to presenting accurate and evidence-based information while providing appropriate context and scrutiny of different perspectives. False equality can distort the truth and mislead the audience by presenting misleading narratives equivalent to fact-based information. It is important to note that bothsidesism and false equality can perpetuate false narratives, hinder critical thinking, and obscure the truth. 

In today's digital age, the mainstream press plays a significant role in shaping public opinion and providing information to the masses. However, there has been a growing concern about the prevalence of bothsidesism and false equality in journalism. This phenomenon, which has been particularly noticeable in outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, and CNN, has been influenced by the emergence of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. By openly allowing lies and falsehoods to coexist alongside the truth, these platforms have contributed to the distortion of reality in news coverage.

The Shift In Centrism to the Right

In American politics, the concept of centrism has significantly shifted over the past several decades. What was once considered centrist politics in the 1960s has progressively moved to the far left by today's standards. In the 1960s, centrism represented a pragmatic approach to balancing progressive social policies and conservative economic principles. It encompassed values such as civil rights, social welfare programs, and a willingness to negotiate diplomatically.

However, the political spectrum has shifted to the right over time, and what was once deemed conservative is now positioned much closer to the liberal end. This shift can be attributed to various factors, including the rise of right-wing media outlets like Fox News, the influence of money in politics, and the polarization of political parties.

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The drift of centrist politics towards the right can be observed in numerous policy areas. For instance, in economic policies, the emphasis on deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy, and a focus on free-market principles has become dominant. The idea of a social safety net, once considered a pillar of centrist politics, has faced challenges, with calls for reducing government intervention and scaling back social welfare programs.

Additionally, on issues such as healthcare, climate change, and immigration, the conservative position has shifted far rightward, with less emphasis on collective responsibility, environmental protection, and inclusive immigration policies. This shift has created a political landscape where policies, once considered center-right, are now perceived as center-left, leading to a growing ideological divide and a redefinition of what constitutes the center in contemporary politics.

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Examples of False Equivalence in The Media

False equivalence, bothsidesism, or false balance, can be observed across journalism contexts. Here are several notable examples that highlight the impact and consequences of this practice:

Climate Change Debate

Media outlets give equal time and weight to scientific experts and to climate change deniers who overwhelmingly support the consensus that climate change is primarily caused by human activity. By presenting these contrasting viewpoints as equally valid, false equivalence misrepresents the overwhelming scientific consensus.


Presenting the views of anti-vaccine proponents alongside medical experts and scientists when discussing vaccines can create a false sense of balance. This false equivalence undermines the scientific consensus supporting the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and may contribute to vaccine hesitancy.

Evolution vs. Creationism

In debates surrounding teaching evolution in schools, false equivalence occurs when equal time is given to scientific principles of evolution and religious beliefs such as creationism or intelligent design. Treating these views as equally valid undermines the scientific consensus and needs to be clarified to understand evolutionary theory.

Political Debates

False equivalence may arise in political discussions or debates when media outlets present controversial statements or conspiracy theories alongside verified facts without appropriate context or fact-checking. This practice can mislead audiences and contribute to the spread of misinformation.

Reporting on Conflict

Where there is a clear aggressor and victim, false equivalence can occur when media outlets give equal weight to the narratives of both parties. This can create a false sense of moral equivalency, obscuring the realities of oppression, human rights abuses, or violations of international law. It can also perpetuate harmful narratives, reinforce biases, and hinder the public's understanding of complex conflicts by providing a platform for conflicting parties without proper context or scrutiny. 

Ukraine Dam Destruction

The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine exemplifies false equivalence. By providing equal time or attention to the statements of Russian spokespersons who have a track record of misinformation, alongside reliable reports from Ukrainian spokespersons, the reporting creates a false sense of balance and obscures the reality of the situation.

These examples demonstrate the detrimental effects of false equivalence, which can perpetuate misinformation, hinder critical thinking, and undermine the credibility of accurate information. The role of journalists and media organizations is crucial in challenging false equivalence and upholding journalistic integrity by prioritizing evidence-based reporting and contextualizing different viewpoints based on their credibility and accuracy.

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The Role of Social Media in Amplifying Falsehoods

Social media platforms have become a breeding ground and echo chambers for false information that amplifies falsehoods. Facebook and Twitter, being two of the most influential outlets, have faced criticism for their leniency towards lies and misinformation. This tolerance has allowed conspiracy theories and false narratives to spread rapidly, creating an environment where false equivalence can thrive. People are exposed to content that aligns with their beliefs, reinforcing their perspectives and making it difficult to discern fact from fiction.

To compete with social media for audience attention, mainstream media organizations have adapted their practices. They have subtly adopted a version of bothsidesism, seeking to appeal to a broader group of viewers. This adaptation poses a dilemma for journalists and media outlets. They must now balance maintaining journalistic integrity and providing accurate information while ensuring they remain relevant and attract viewership. This delicate balance often leads to the unintended consequence of giving false equivalence to misinformation, perpetuating false narratives, and eroding public trust in journalism.

Journalists and media organizations must critically assess their reporting practices to combat the amplification of falsehoods and promote a reality-based media landscape. They should prioritize accuracy, fact-checking, and contextualizing information to provide audiences with a comprehensive understanding of complex issues. By refraining from false equivalence and actively challenging misinformation, journalists can help restore public trust in the media and ensure the dissemination of reliable, evidence-based information in an era dominated by social media.

The Consequences of Bothsidesism

Moreover, the consequences of bothsidesism can be observed in the realm of policy-making and public action. When false equivalence is given to viewpoints that lack evidence or validity, it can impede progress on critical issues. For example, in the context of climate change, bothsidesism has delayed meaningful action to address the environmental crisis. By presenting the views of climate change deniers as equal to those of climate scientists, an urgency to mitigate the effects of climate change has been undermined, resulting in policy paralysis and a failure to address the global climate crisis adequately.

Another consequence of bothsidesism is the distortion of public discourse and the perpetuation of harmful ideologies. When media outlets provide a platform for extremist or fringe viewpoints alongside mainstream perspectives, they can legitimize and amplify divisive and discriminatory narratives. This can normalize hateful ideologies, further polarizing society and contributing to social unrest. Failure to challenge false equivalence in reporting can inadvertently spread misinformation, reinforce biases, and entrench societal divisions.

In recent years, the rise of populism and the spread of misinformation have been fueled, in part, by bothsidesism in media coverage. By presenting fringe political movements or conspiracy theories on an equal footing with established political parties or factual reporting, media outlets can inadvertently provide a platform for disseminating dangerous ideologies. This not only undermines the democratic process but also threatens the fundamental values of truth, accountability, and informed decision-making.

Moving Towards Reality-Based Journalism

One example of a media organization that has embraced reality-based journalism is ProPublica. They prioritize investigative reporting and data-driven journalism to provide readers with in-depth, accurate, and evidence-based information. By focusing on facts, research, and rigorous reporting, ProPublica has gained a reputation for delivering reliable and impactful journalism that holds those in power accountable.

Another example is The Guardian, which has taken steps to combat bothsidesism by implementing rigorous fact-checking processes and emphasizing evidence-based reporting. They have a dedicated team that scrutinizes claims made by politicians, experts, and public figures to ensure accuracy and integrity in their reporting. The Guardian promotes a reality-based journalism approach by actively challenging false equivalence and misinformation.

Furthermore, platforms like PolitiFact and FactCheck.org play a crucial role in reality-based journalism by fact-checking political statements, claims, and debates. They provide objective analysis, evaluate the accuracy of statements, and present the facts to the public. These fact-checking organizations help counteract false equivalence by introducing evidence-based assessments, empowering readers to make informed decisions based on truth and accuracy.

Moving towards reality-based journalism requires a commitment to truth, accuracy, and critical analysis. By prioritizing evidence-based reporting, contextualizing events, and actively challenging false equivalence, media organizations can regain public trust and provide the public with reliable information. Examples such as ProPublica, The Guardian, and fact-checking organizations demonstrate the power of reality-based journalism in promoting informed decision-making and holding power to account. Through these efforts, journalism can fulfill its vital role in democracy and contribute to a more informed and engaged society.

About the Author

jenningsRobert Jennings is co-publisher of InnerSelf.com with his wife Marie T Russell. He attended the University of Florida, Southern Technical Institute, and the University of Central Florida with studies in real estate, urban development, finance, architectural engineering, and elementary education. He was a member of the US Marine Corps and The US Army having commanded a field artillery battery in Germany. He worked in real estate finance, construction and development for 25 years before starting InnerSelf.com in 1996.

InnerSelf is dedicated to sharing information that allows people to make educated and insightful choices in their personal life, for the good of the commons, and for the well-being of the planet. InnerSelf Magazine is in its 30+year of publication in either print (1984-1995) or online as InnerSelf.com. Please support our work.

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